Identifying the best new bikes for shorter riders is a fairly common request – that’s why we came up with our guide to the ‘Top 10 motorcycles for shorter riders’. After all, being able to put your feet comfortably and confidently on the ground and not feeling overwhelmed by the height or bulk of a machine is a big deal and can be key to enjoying your biking.
But there’s a flip side to the same coin – bikes that suit taller riders – which, for some, is almost as important. And although we’re the first to admit that feeling too large or cramped on a particular bike is more of a discomfort than a danger, taller riders nearly always prefer a roomier machine.
Generally speaking, the best indicator of a bike’s suitability for tall types is its seat height. A high saddle usually implies extra legroom and the roomier proportions which suit taller riders – but this isn’t always the case. Custom bikes such as Harleys, for example, although having very low, cruiser-style saddles, also often have extended ‘highway pegs’ and tall ‘ape hanger’ bars that give plenty of room for tall riders.
For the most part, though, seat height remains a good guide and for simplicity and consistency’s sake, it’s the main measure we’re going by here. And although that also favours off-road or adventure style bikes, who’s larger diameter wheels and longer travel suspension combine to also high seat heights, with such a wide variety of styles and capacities of such bikes these days there’s a far broader and more interesting choice than you might expect. So, with no further ado, here’s our pick of the best, across all kinds of category…
A1 licence-compliant 125s which are specifically designed to be unintimidating, novice-friendly machines for first-timers wouldn’t be expected to be at all high or ungainly in a way that’d suit taller riders – quite the opposite in fact. But there are exceptions. Until recently, Honda’s V-twin Varadero 125 proved popular with taller riders for its full-sized, adventure bike styled proportions and remains an in-demand used buy for that very reason. The closest new equivalent today, meanwhile, is the Sinnis 125 Terrain, which, also with adventure bike roominess and a fairly tall saddle height of 800mm is better suited than most to taller riders. But it’s not the tallest. Although sports machines don’t usually suit larger riders, in the 125cc category Yamaha’s recently updated ‘mini R1’, the R125, shich now also has a TFT dash, has become a best seller not just for its MotoGP styling and sophisticated equipment, but also for full-sized sports bike proportions akin to Yamaha’s own 600cc R6. That still doesn’t make it a big, roomy bike but it’s not bad for a 125 and, with a 820mm seat height that’s the highest in the class, is almost roomy.
It’s a testament to the popularity and versatility of adventure bikes that there are now even ones available under 500cc and 47bhp which are compliant with the A2 licence category. Honda’s soft, friendly, twin cylinder CB500X remains a favourite and is just as easy and affordable as its CBR500R and CB500F sportster and roadster siblings. It’s proved a big seller – deservedly so for its class leading, flexible and gently 47bhp powertrain, decent build quality, reliability and accessible but appealing ‘big bike’ proportions. It’s also reasonably spacious, agile, long-legged and yet still nimble. And, with its extended, adventure-style suspension front and rear, quality digital clocks, 19in, adventure-style front wheel (the rear’s a 17incher) it provides a slim but roomy 830mm seat height that should find favour with the tallest of riders yet still without feeling intimidating.
Another by-product of the huge current popularity of adventure bikes is the dwindling number of traditional trail bikes after being so popular in the latter part of last century. Perhaps that’s not too surprising: after all, adventure bikes blend road comfort and performance with off road style and (usually at least some) ability so well that genuine trailies, the purer, lighter, dual-purpose machines that do without their adventure cousins’ fairings and big tanks and are usually powered by slim, lightweight single-cylinder engines, have little appeal. Unless you’re particularly tall yet want a light, city-friendly dual-purpose bike, that is. Thankfully, Honda has got it covered with its CRF300L, the update of the old CRF250L, at 880mm and 27bhp with an even taller, more versatile version available in the form of the faired, more comfortable Rally at £750 more and with a saddle height of 885mm.
One of the biggest sales hits of recent years has been Yamaha’s adventure version of its MT-07 roadster twin. The Ténéré 700 uses a slightly detuned version of the roadster’s brilliantly peppy, 73bhp parallel twin and retains much of its affordability, yet delivers all that in a tall, upright, roomy and genuinely dual-purpose adventure bike package. The Ténéré’s saddle, at a lofty 875mm, has enough legroom for all, yet, being slim and relatively light, isn’t too intimidating. It is also decent over distance thanks to its fairing and reasonable comfort and is adequate around town, too. There are alternatives: BMW’s recent Adventure version of its F850GS also brings a tall seat (this time 875mm) along with a bigger tank and roomier proportions while KTM’s smallest adventure offering so far, the 390 Adventure, also offers big proportions (an 855mm saddle) and genuine dual-purpose ability in a lightweight, small capacity package. But the biggest/tallest/best of all is the Rally Edition version of the Ténéré, with a dedicated Rally seat taking its height up to 895mm, 20mm more than the stock bike, and also gets an Akrapovič can, bash plate, rad guard and more.
We’ve grown used to the unendingly popular retro bike category, as kicked off initially by Triumph’s reborn Bonneville in 2000, being dominated by old-fashioned, relatively light and low roadster twins. Apart from the Bonnie there’s Guzzi’s V7, BMW’s RnineT, Yamaha’s XSR and many more, most of which are simply too dinky for lankier riders. But that’s ignoring the ‘scrambler’ retro off-shoot: off-road variants inspired by the classic scramblers of the 1960s and pioneered by the Triumph themselves in 2008 with the Triumph Bonneville Scrambler. These bikes, with their bigger wheels, sometimes longer suspension, higher bars and so on have all the olde worlde retro charm of their roadster brethren but with added legroom which taller riders will welcome. BMW offers a version of its RnineT, the Urban G/S inspired by 1980’s original R80G/S while until recently Ducati had its Desert Sled, based on the popular, novice-friendly, 72bhp Scrambler 800 V-twin. But with that bike now deleted the3 tallest of the type now comes from Triumph. The British firm currently has two scramblers, the more entry-level Scrambler 900 and the Scrambler 1200, the latter available in street ‘XC’ and hardcore enduro ‘XE’ trim, with longer suspension, true off road ability, a starring role in the latest James Bond flick ‘No Time To Die’ and the tallest seat in the class at a whopping 870mm.
There’s no question that supermotos – basically punchy enduro or motocross bikes that have been converted for road and track with street wheels, tyres and brakes – have pretty niche appeal. But there’s also no doubt that their lively, ultra-nimble performance is great fun and that their lofty saddles are particularly suited to lankier riders. No, they’re not for everyone and have limited practicality – motorways would be unbearable while pillions or luggage are impossibility – but for short, twist-packed, Sunday blasts few bikes are more fun. Of the current versions available one stands out – Ducati’s slick and sophisticated Hypermotard, with a 937cc V-twin producing 113bhp and, in top spec, ultra-looney ‘SP’ form, a bonkers 890mm saddle height. But if you want something even more pure but less practical, Husqvarna’s single-cylinder 701 also has the same 890mm saddler height.
Now we’re talking. The modern breed of adventure bikes, big-bore global travellers inspired by BMW’s original, 2002 R1150GS Adventure complete with long distance fuel tanks, tall off-road suspension and the towering seat heights to match, have redefined how big motorcycles can be and are also hugely tempting for taller riders. If you want versatility, the ability to tackle M-ways two-up with luggage, twisting A-roads and even a bit of dirt, not to mention rugged off-road style, nothing comes close – hence their enduring popularity. But when it comes to sheer size and aplomb three stand out: the brand new, taller, more off-road Enduro version of Ducati’s brilliantly sophisticated and 160bhp fast Multistrada V4; BMW’s latest R1250GSA, complete with flexible and fruity 136bhp ‘ShiftCam’ boxer (not to mention an options list that’d shame Range Rover) and, arguably, the biggest, slickest and most potent of the lot, KTM’s updated-for-2023, range-topping, more off-road ‘R’ variant of its 1290 Super Adventure which, with 880mm saddle, 160bhp twin, TFT screen and electronics including adaptive cruise control and even decent off-road manners stands, at least in some ways, head and shoulders above the lot.
‘This is just another big adventure bike’ I hear you saying, but there’s a difference. While machines like the aforementioned BMW GSA and KTM Super Adventure are true off-roaders, there’s another breed, a bit like the SUV ‘soft roaders’ in the car world, who have much of the off-road style and size of true adventure machines but in truth are pure roadsters. As such, they combine roominess and comfort but with more sporty, touring ability. Kawasaki’s big, four-cylinder Versys, typifies this. And with ample comfort, litre-bike performance yet upright proportions including a 840mm seat height is a great option for tall riders. While BMW’s 160bhp S1000XR delivers near superbike performance from its S1000R-derived four-cylinder engine in a roomy, upright package also with a 840mm seat height. But the roomiest, ,ost capable and most versatile of all is surely Ducati’s latest, brilliant, V4-powered Multistrada which, with its ballistic 170bhp V4, fabulous handling and specification, especially in S trim, range of models and. Crucially, a seat height that, in standard trim is adjustable between 840 and 860mm but also has options for an 875mm high seat or 810mm low seat is truly the most adaptable bike for tall riders available.
If you can’t face the bulk and blurred edges of an ‘adventure sports’ machine such as BMW’s S1000R derived S1000XR, super nakeds provide a purer sports alternative for those wanting superbike performance but with a more roomy, upright riding position – and there’s has a flood of options. Kawasaki has its ‘big and bold’ supercharged Z H2, with a whopping 198bhp, 830mm saddle and big all-round proportions; Aprilia has the brilliant V4 1100 Tuono, with a saddle height of 825mm, the same as Yamaha’s impressive MT-10 and Ducati’s Streetfighter V4, as derived from the outrageous Panigale V4 superbike, is arguably even more impressive with 208bhp and a high 845mm saddle. The tallest (potentially) and most versatile (arguably) is the S1000R itself, which has a standard seat of 830mm but also an optional high seat version at 850mm.
OK, we realize that pure sports bikes, with their cramped racer riding positions, low screens and high foot pegs, are possibly the least comfortable bikes of all for taller riders but we couldn’t ignore the category completely and it’s worth exploring what’s on offer if you’re tall and interested in the ultimate in performance machines. With that said, until recently we’d have had no hesitation in recommending the old Honda Fireblade (2008-17) or earlier BMW S1000RR (2009-18) both of which combined ballistic but road-friendly performance with relatively roomy, real-world ergonomics. Since then, however, superbikes have become significantly more extreme and cramped, so much so that, where the ‘M1-alike’ Yamaha R1 from 2015 was once considered the most compact and cramped bike in the class the latest, slightly revised version, is now one of the roomiest, with the loftiest seat height of 855mm. It is worth adding, however, that in this category more than most seat heights don’t necessarily equate to roomy riding positions. Pegs can be high and cramped, bar placements low, screens tiny and so on, so much so that the only real way of finding out if they fit is by trying them for size yourself.
Fancy a used option? Here’s our five of the best:
2010-2012 Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200, £5,500-7,500
Aprilia’s 1200 soft supermoto had an 870mm tall seat
2001-2009 Honda XL125V Varadero, £1,600-3,500
Aging adventure 125 V-twin still in demand for roomy 800mm+ seat
2017-2020 Kawasaki Versys X-300, £3,000-4,500
Short-lived, twin cylinder A2 adventure features tall, 845mm seat.
2015-current BMW S1000XR, £8,000-16,000
165bhp four-cylinder adventure sport is great, tall all-rounder
2019-current KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, £10,400-16,500
Brilliant sports-tourer twin suits tall riders and is good value used.
We understand that you can only ride one bike at a time, regardless of how many motorcycles you have in your garage. It’s not uncommon for motorcyclists to own more than one bike. A practical machine for commuting, something sporty for weekend thrills and an adventure bike and a nostalgic classic or two as well.
A collection of motorbikes presents a challenge to insurers; our job is to make sure you have the right cover for each bike at our best possible price, but we think Bennetts’ multi-bike insurance does just that because as a motorcycle insurance specialist with BikeSocial, our team of in-house biking experts, we believe that Bennetts knows biking better.
Bennetts multi-bike insurance can cover up-to six bikes on one policy, is Defaqto 5-star rated and comes with free BikeSocial Membership when you buy insurance directly.